What does Matthew 11:3 mean?
ESV: and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
NIV: to ask him, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'
NASB: and said to Him, 'Are You the Coming One, or are we to look for someone else?'
CSB: and asked him, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? "
NLT: Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?'
KJV: And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
NKJV: and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Verse Commentary:
John the Baptist has been in prison for as long as a year. Chapter 14 will reveal additional details as to why he was imprisoned. He had declared that Herod's choice to divorce his own wife and marry his brother's wife was not lawful. In retaliation, Herod had him arrested and imprisoned at a fortress called Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea.

The gospels make it clear that John was more than just a teacher. He was the fulfilment of God's prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 about a man who would come to "prepare the way of the Lord." John did this by calling Israel to repent because the kingdom of heaven was near. He introduced Israel to Jesus as the Messiah.

The question being posed here suggests John was grappling with doubt. He has heard about what Jesus has been doing, and he has sent his disciples to Jesus with a question: Are you the one who was to come, or should we look for someone else? In short, John the Baptist was asking if Jesus was really the Messiah. It's also possible that John is asking this question rhetorically—that his deeper meaning is something like saying, "Jesus, what are you waiting for?"

John preached that those who failed to "produce good fruit" would be "cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:10). He said the Messiah was coming to gather the wheat into His barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Scholars suggest John's expectations for the Messiah didn't match up with Jesus' early ministry. This was a common response of people who had been raised to expect a David-like figure who would immediately conquer. Scripture shows that almost nobody understood that Jesus had come to demonstrate power before dying for the sins of the world, and then to be resurrected from the dead. Judgment would come for all who rejected the Messiah, but it would come later.

John had heard about Jesus' preaching and His miracles of healing and casting out demons. He had not heard anything about Jesus bringing judgment on Israel so far. Perhaps John was waiting even for Herod to be judged by the Messiah so they he could be released from prison.
Verse Context:
Matthew 11:1–19 deals with John the Baptist, who is in prison at this point (Matthew 4:12). John sends his own disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus gives them an answer and then upholds John to the crowds. He reminds them of John's strength and affirms that John was the prophet who fulfilled the prophecy about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. This generation, though, rejected John's message of repentance, saying that John had a demon and that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus insists He and John will be proved right in the end.
Chapter Summary:
John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus gives them a specific answer to use to reassure John and then upholds John to the crowds. John fulfills the prophecy about the one who would prepare the people for the Messiah. This generation, though, refused to hear John or Jesus, deciding John had a demon and Jesus was a glutton and drunkard. Jesus condemns the cities that refuse to repent and thanks the Father for revealing the truth to little children. He offers rest for those who are weary and burdened.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 11 follows Jesus' instructions to the apostles about taking His message and miracles to the towns of Israel with His own continued ministry of teaching (Matthew 10). Jesus answers a question from John the Baptist's followers, and upholds John's ministry. Jesus condemns several cities in Galilee for rejecting His teaching, despite obvious signs. He thanks His Father for hiding the truth from those who arrogantly think they are wise. He offers rest for those who will take His yoke. This leads to further confrontations with critics, recorded in chapter 12.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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